My dad says it best…
Reflections on My Journey with Nadine
Mom and I first met in 1982. We sized each other up from across the Sunday morning brunch table. She smoked a cigarette, and I was a collection of bruises and scrapes from playing rugby the day before. That began a 30 year “getting-acquainted journey” from our muddled first impressions. As we all know, Nadine and Patty were strong-willed individuals; Dad and I were often on the sidelines for their loving “tug-of-wars”. My second brunch encounter happened when Patty decided that after six years of living in Madison, she wanted to be married there instead of in her parents’ backyard. Immediately after taking our dining room seats, Dad and Patty, the cowards, quickly left to check out the brunch buffet choices. Mom and I were left alone where we enjoyed our first “exploration of family and religion”. Another meaningful learning encounter for me occurred when Audrey was two. Mom had decided that Auds needed the appropriate attire to venture out socially with her parents. In the mail arrived a beautiful winter coat trimmed in sable with a matching sable hat and muff. Patty put it in the box and mailed back to her Mom. Nadine was always a very generous soul, but Patty wanted relationships based on other things. I was just taking notes.
Religion entered my talks with Mom beginning at our wedding, of course, but that proved to be a tiny glimpse into our spirituality. I challenged Patty to teach our growing family about her Jewish roots; she had to turn to her parents for the correct wording of bedtime and Hanukkah prayers. In time, Nadine was celebrating Pre-Christian, Catholic and Jewish Holidays with us. The most important holiday celebration became Passover. For nearly every year, celebrating a Seder dinner together remained an emotional highlight for our family, including Sue. Finally in 2012, we were especially happy to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah with Mom and Dad. With their favorite foods from Max’s Deli, Mom ate at the dining room table with us for the final time. We said the Hanukkah prayer from the original card that Nadine had sent to Patty and lit candles on the Menorah that she had chosen. We will always remember Grandma’s giggles and grins during the dinner time chatter.
And yet, all of this is not the real story of my “getting-acquainted journey” with Nadine. After her daughter died, Mom was afraid I might keep her precious grandchildren from seeing her as much. Even after eight years of interaction, it was just a small sign of how little Mom truly knew about me. In the many years that followed, Grandma was a frequent overnight (or nights) visitor staying in our guest bedroom, and we were frequent summer visitors to Manitowish. Since I was a single parent and a teacher with a unique vacation schedule, something unusual occurred. Both early every morning and at night after the kids went to bed, Mom and I would talk alone for hours. We dissected politics, religion, art, books, culture, lifestyles and family. We did not always see eye-to-eye on everything, but grew to respect what was best in both of us. Mom and Dad attended many important events in the lives of Audrey and Andy. They gave me way too much credit for the accomplishments of my kids. Each year, Mom would send me a Mother’s Day card and a Father’s Day card.
Furthermore, Nadine welcomed Sue into the family with open arms. She wrote Sue some of the most touching and insightful notes through the mail. In fact, I realized how truly lucky I was, when Mom called one evening. She did not want to talk to me; Nadine was returning a call Sue had made to her the day before. After a long conversation, Sue hung up the phone without needing even a good-bye from me; I obviously was not necessary for their growing relationship.
I wish to end my reflections about Mom with a final story. While I was visiting for a few days last December, Dad left the breakfast table for his usual “hour an a half morning shower ritual”. Magically, it was like old times when the kids were still sleeping. Mom and I talked for more than an hour about all the old topics, along with her feelings about her life and dying. Suddenly she paused to collect her thoughts, stared out the window and whispered that she finally “got me”. Mom told me that in her heart she knew that Andy and Audrey loved her for just the way she was; all they ever wanted was to talk with her or to spend time having fun together. It’s the best compliment Mom could have given to us. This is how our family will always remember her.